In Memoriam

n Memorium

We honor the memory of recently-deceased members
of the extended “Notre Dame football family.”
Our prayers are with their friends and families.

Joe Heap

Died April 6, 2011
New Orleans, Louisiana
Age 79

The only three-time Academic All-American in Notre Dame football history, Heap ranks as the only halfback in school history to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards in a career. In addition to his school record of 1,137 receiving yards by a halfback, Heap’s 71 career catches rank fifth all-time among Notre Dame halfbacks. He led the Irish in receptions in three straight seasons – 1952, ’53 and `54.  Heap, along with quarterback Ralph Guglielmi, Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Lattner and fullback Neil Worden, helped the Irish to a 9-0-1 record and share of the 1953 national title.


Jim Seymour

Died March 29, 2011
Highland Park, Illinois
Age 64

In the fall of 1966, a sophomore passing combination — Terry Hanratty to Jim Seymour — burst on the college football scene and onto the cover of Time magazine under the headline, “The Power of Talent and Teamwork.”.  By season’s end, they had led Notre Dame to a 9-0-1 record and a national championship.  Seymour went on to earn All-American honors in 1967 and 1968, setting numerous Irish records and finishing with 138 career catches for 2,113 yards and 16 touchdowns. His 276 yards receiving against Purdue in 1966 remans an ND record.


Dave Duerson

Died February 17, 2011
Sunny Isles Beach, Florida
Age 50

A four-year regular at safety (1979-82), Duerson won All-American honors in 1981 and 1982. In ’82 for the Irish, he was a team captain and Most Valuable Player. Dave went on to an All-Pro career with the Chicago Bears, New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals. In 1987, he was honored with the NFL Man of the Year Award.  In 1990, Notre Dame’s Monogram Club recognized him with the Edward “Moose” Krause Distinguished Service Award. Dave also served as president of the Monogram Club, and as a member of the University of Notre Dame Board of Trustees from 2001-05.

Tom Pagna
Died July 6, 2010
South Bend
Age 77

The assistant coach most associated with Irish coaching legend Ara Parseghian, Pagna was a key member of Ara’s staff at Notre Dame from 1969 through 1974. The two were friends for 60 years, from the time Parseghian recruited Pagna to be a running back at Miami of Ohio, where they both later coached. Pagna followed Parseghian to Northwestern, and eventually to Notre Dame. His skills at developing talent on the offensive side of the ball, and his sincerity at molding young men, made him an extraordinary part of the Notre Dame staff.

Coverage from the South Bend Tribune: Friends Remember Pagna’s Football Knowledge


Serafino Dante “Foge” Fazio
Died December 2, 2009
Age 71

Foge Fazio was coming off a 13-year stint of coaching at Pitt, his alma mater, when he was hired as the first defensive coordinator on the staff of Lou Holtz at Notre Dame. He served under Holtz for the 1986 and 1987 seasons, helping build the foundations for the 1988 national champion Irish. Foge had been a star center and linebacker for the Panthers, served nine seasons as an assistant coach, and was Pitt head coach from 1982-85, compiling a record of 25-18-3. After ND, he went on to a career as an NFL assistant with the Falcons, Jets, Redskins, Vikings and Browns.

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Remembering Foge Fazio: Impact on others was far-reaching

Gus Cifelli
Died March 26, 2009
Royal Oak, Michigan
Age 84

Cifelli came out of LaSalle College High School in Philadelphia, where he graduated in 1943 and went into the Marines, serving in the Pacific theatre. After World Word II, he entered Notre Dame, and earned three football letters as a tackle in 1947, 1948 and 1949, under legendary coach Frank Leahy. The Irish were undefeated in those years, posting an overall record of 28-0-1, including undefeated campaigns capped by national championship honors in 1947 and 1949.

Cifelli graduated cum laude with a philosophy degree, was drafted by the Detroit Lions and started 36 games for the Lions, playing on the 1952 NFL championship team. He also played professionally for the Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers.

Settling in Michigan, Cifelli earned a law degree and developed a respected reputation as a trial lawyer. In 1973, he was elected a District Judge, beginning nearly a quarter-century of service from the bench. He was awarded numerous honors, including the Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitarian Award, Italian American Man of the Year. Law Enforcement Award, and the Notre Dame Club of Detroit Alumnus of the Year Award in 2005.

Pasquale “Pat” Bisceglia
Died Feb. 7, 2009
Shrewsbury, Mass.
Age 78

Pasquale “Pat” Bisceglia came out of a large, working-class family in Worcester, Mass., where he hoped to play football for the College of the Holy Cross, but was told he was too small, at 5-10, 190 pounds. He spent four years in the Navy, then came to Notre Dame under Heach Coach Frank Leahy. With the Irish, his spirit and drive overcame any lack of size, and he started at left guard and linebacker for three seasons (1953-55), earning first-team AP All-American honors his senior season. The Irish were 26-3-1 his three varsity years, finishing in the AP top 10 each season.

Pat put his Notre Dame business degree to use in a 35-year career with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, retiring as chief of fire control for state parks and forests. He stayed in football by coaching at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Pat’s wife of 53 years, Virginia, died in 2007.  He is survived by three sons.

From the Worcester Telegram & Gazette:  A legend, Bisceglia got his start fighting Irish


Robert Prosky
Died Dec. 8, 2008
Washington, D.C.
Age 77

The veteran character actor had hundreds of credits on stage and screen — inclding more than 200 plays on Broadway and a regional theater company in Washington, 38 films and numerous TV shows. But it was his role as the kindly Father Cavanaugh in “Rudy” that endeared him to legions of Notre Dame fans.  Among his memorable lines:

“Son,” Rev. Cavanaugh soberly advises Rudy, “In 35 years of religious study, I have only come up with two hard incontrovertible facts: there is a God, and I’m not Him.”

Prosky died five days short of his 78th birthday, during a heart procedure.
Dick Lynch
Died Sept. 24, 2008
New York City
Age 72

Dick Lynch wrote his name in the annals of Fighting Irish football lore on November 16, 1957, when he scored a touchdown with 3:50 remaining and Notre Dame held on to defeat Oklahoma, 7-0, ending the Sooners’ record 47-game winning streak. Lynch came out of Bound Brook, N.J. and Phillipsburg Catholic High School in Clinton, N.J., and played halfback and linebacker for the Irish in 1955-57. As a senior in ’57, the versatile Lynch led ND in receiving and kickoff returns, and was second in rushing and scoring, in addition to playing solid defense at outside linebacker.

Lynch was able to return to his home area, playing eight seasons for the New York Giants during their glory years in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He was a Pro Bowl selection in 1963, when he led the NFL with nine interceptions. After retiring from play in 1966, he began a long career as a radio analyst for the Giants in 1967, serving on the team’s broadcasts through the Giants’ Super Bowl victory over the Patriots.

The youngest of Lynch’s six children, son John, was a walk-on player at ND and graduated in 1996.  Another son, Richard, died during the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. Dick Lynch died after a long battle with cancer.


John V. “Jack” Rockne
Died August 10, 2008
South Bend, Indiana
Age 82

John Vincent “Jack” Rockne was the last surviving child of Notre Dame coaching legend Knute Rockne. He died of complications of cancer at Sanctuary at Holy Cross.

“He was an admirable man who showed great respect for his father and his legacy,” Nore Dame coach Charlie Weis said of Rockne.  “In my last conversation with Jack, his only regret was that his physical condition would prevent him from attending the Notre Dame games this year. Now he can watch the games with Knute.”

Jack Rockne, who attended ND in the late 1940s, had been active with Notre Dame’s Rockne Heritage Fund, and in 2006 received an honorary monogram from the Notre Dame Monogram Club. He is survived by four children, 15 grand-children and 13 great-grandchildren.


Jerry Groom
Died Feb. 29, 2008
Sarasota, Florida
Age 78

Groom was an All-American center and linebacker at Notre Dame, and in 1994 was named to the College Football Hall of Fame. He came to ND from Dowling High School in Des Moines, Iowa. A three-year starter under coach Frank Leahy, he captained the 1950 squad and earned consensus first-team All-American honors. The Irish went 23-4-1 his three seasons, including 9-0-1 in 1948, good for a No. 2 national ranking, and 10-0-0 in 1949, when the Irish captured the national championship.

In the final game of the 1949 season, against Southern Methodist and a crowd of 75,000 in Dallas, the Irish were clinging to a 27-20 lead over the Mustangs in the final minutes when Groom made an end-zone interception to preserve the victory that clinched the national championship.

Groom was a first-round draft pick of the Chicago Cardinals and played five seasons, earning Pro Bowl honors in 1954. In his years as a Notre Dame alumnus, he organized numerous reunions of Leahy’s former players – known as Leahy’s Lads – and led fundraising for the sculpture of Coach Leahy at Notre Dame Stadium, as well as the Frank Leahy Memorial Scholarship program.

J erry Groom’s funeral was celebrated March 8, 2008 at Incarnation Catholic Church in Sarasota.

James Easter Heathman
Died Jan. 29, 2008
Emporia, Kansas
Age 90

On March 31, 1931, Easter Heathman was a few days shy of his 14th birthday, working on his family’s farm in Kansas when he heard the sound of an engine overhead, and thought it must have been cars racing nearby.  Minutes later, he was in a Model T with his dad and brothers, arriving at the site of the airplane crash that claimed the life of Knute Rockne, head coach of the Fighting Irish.

For the last 20 years of his life, Heathman tended the small memorial at the site, which in on private land. He patiently guided visitors to the site, and told the story of that March day, and how the nation mourned the loss of the beloved coach.  Heathman also made several trips to South Bend for ND games, telling his story to gatherings of alumni.

From Man who tended to Rockne memorial defined spirit of Notre Dame